So the time has come to write the second post, always from Stockholm, since so many exciting things have happened in the past few days. Meeting people, parties, hikes in nature and the incredible discovery that you need to be proper rich (or earn a swedish income) in order to have “fika” coffee breaks once or even twice a day. Therefore, although I am still planning on embracing the best aspects of the nordic culture, I might not fully adopt this tradition. Maybe just partly, although I am pretty sure it’s not going to work as I am a very all or nothing- person and I will end up spending a large amount of money on “kaffe och bullar” (coffee and buns).
Scandinavia is ridiculously expensive. When I thought £2,30 for a caffè latte in London was outrageous, I had clearly not travelled here yet. In the most popular coffee chains, called “Espresso House” and “Wayne’s Coffee”, the price of a coffee is around 35 swedish kroner, which is about £3,50 or, yes, €4. So, being someone who was brought up in a country where a cup of coffee costs less than a bottle of water, here in Stockholm it basically feels like I am drinking liquid gold in the morning more than anything else…
However, complaining about the sky-high prices is something I do not intend to do throughout this blog as, despite the fact that I find these things quite surprising every time I fly here (discovering something more expensive every day), I am not going to pretend like this is the first time I visit Scandinavia.
As mentioned earlier, I went for a hike this weekend. I am not usually known for my sporty, athletic personality, but I thought that what was described as a “four hour walk in a nearby forest” would totally suit me and did not require any kind sporty-ness at all. Well, it eventually turned out to be a proper 6 hour hike within a large forest and on a few islands in the outskirts of the city.
But even more surprisingly, I did not find it tiring at all (almost, I’m still a human being). The feeling of being out in real, uncontaminated nature was wonderful and I truly felt that it had been missing in me for a very long time. Living in London, between home, the Tube, University and work, you are so caught up by the thousands of tasks, preoccupations, worries and stresses of the daily routine, that you almost forget to dedicate some proper quality time to yourself; and I came to discover that there is no better place than nature to do so – may it be a Swedish forest or a Caribbean beach (and I can’t afford a Caribbean beach at the moment, so I’ll just stick to the forest for this cathartic process).
The whole hike was organised by a couchsurfer called Nils, probably the quietest and most nordic-looking swede I have ever met. He looked like a proper Viking. We all met in Södermalmstorg close to Slussen station in central Stockholm (was looking out for hippy-looking backpackers) and took a bus all the way to Värmdö, one of the municipalities in “Greater Stockholm” (or Stockholms län).
The following days I have met up with a couple of people, including my great neighbours. We had a very nice BBQ on sunday and an evening walk (kvällspromenad) around two of the lakes close to the apartment I’m staying in.
On Monday I met up a girl from couchsurfing. She is Russian and moved to Sweden a year ago to study swedish and because she fell in love with the nordic culture. It is surprising how I can manage to find that 0,01% of the world’s population which has interests similar to mine. We had, once again, a nice Fika in central Stockholm and chatted about the differences between our languages, a topic I am extremely keen on.
Eventually on Tuesday I met up with Alexander, a friend of my manager from Starbucks in London, and went for a nice stroll on an island in Stockholm called Djurgården, reachable by one of the city’s small ferries. The weather was not great – swedish summer (from what I have experienced so far) is not summer, unless you consider 13°C and clouds an average summer day; but still I really enjoyed the afternoon with him and two of his friends who joined us later for a beer in Mosebake (my favourite open-air pub in Stockholm with a view on the city).
Hopefully by the end of the week, when I’ll be joining my new swedish acquaintances in the massive celebrations of midsummer, the weather will treat us better than it has done so far.
All I have to do now, together with Giulia who landed in Sweden this morning (exciting times!!!), is go out to town and make my first visit to Systembolaget -the only store which sells alcohol in the country as it is a state monopole – in order to start the celebrations in a proper nordic way!